Q: I’m a single mom and would like to spruce up my grimy kitchen cabinets, but I don’t have the time to repaint them. Do you have any suggestions on just cleaning them up a little?
A: Because the kitchen is where people cook, typically there is a film of oil mixed with the dirt that is discoloring them. First, remove the hardware so you can scrub the entire painted surface—all you need is a screwdriver. Scrubbing with a solution of 50-percent ammonia and 50-percent water will help cut through the grease. Be careful how much water you use on wood; even if it’s painted, too much penetration of the latex paint can raise the grain. If you need something stronger, paint supply and hardware stores usually carry products specified as “wood cleaners” or “wax removers” that might be more effective and easy to use. Most manufacturers recommend you simply spray it on the cabinetry, let it agitate the dirt for a few minutes, and then wipe it off with a cotton cloth. As long as you’re removing the hardware, consider replacing it with a more modern style of pulls and hinges. This can greatly update the look of kitchen cabinets, and it’s much easier than repainting or refinishing them all.